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The Poor: Who, Why and How to Help, Part 2

We’ve all been there.  We’re going about our merry way and upon our scene emerges a homeless person, a hungry person, a disheveled, obviously poor, with a ton of problems person.

?  How do you react?

If you’re like most Americans, you immediately feel compassion.  You want to fix the problem.  Americans are fix-it people.  We see a problem and we have to fix it.  Look at our history.  You’ll see this is true.  But how do we fix it?  The American way is with money.  Sometimes that’s okay, but sometimes money is the least of a person’s problems.  Sometimes money hurts more than it helps.  The Bible shows us that the poor need more than money.

I. How Should We Treat The Poor?

A. HAVE COMPASSION ON THE TRULY POOR.

Remember, the Bible defines the poor as those who can’t take care of themselves, who need help now lest they suffer or die. 

God feels compassion for these people, even for those who are poor by their own doing (Psalm 72:13; Proverbs 14:21; 19:17).  Jesus spent much of His ministry helping the poor and His motive in helping was compassion.  If we wish to be like Christ, our first reaction should be compassion (James 1:27; 1 John 3:17).

B.  BE FAIR TO EVERYONE.

Beyond compassion, we need to be fair.  Biblically, this point includes both the truly poor and those who simply have a lower standard of living. 

1. Show No Partiality For The Rich.

a. At church…

When a needy person comes to church, welcome them as joyfully as you do the rich (or more popular or better looking) people who attend (James 2:2, 3).  Don’t just hang out with the one who is more pleasant to be around, the nicely dressed, more refined, nicer smelling, better looking person.  Show no partiality in corporate worship.

Luke 14:13, 14

[Jesus said], “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

b. In everyday life…

Don’t take advantage of the poor!  Don’t deny them just wages because they are desperate for money.  Don’t deny them justice because they can’t afford a fancy lawyer.  Don’t overtax them because they can’t afford an accountant. (Deuteronomy 15:9; Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 22:22)

Proverbs 29:7

The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor,

The wicked does not understand such concern.

As wrong as it is to show partiality for the rich, it is just as wrong to show partiality for the poor!

2. Show No Partiality For The Poor (Ex. 23:3; Lev. 19:15).

Just because a wealthy person can pay more doesn’t mean we should take advantage of him.  Don’t punish the wealthy because your envious of their wealth.  Justice, according to the Bible, should have nothing to do with a person’s financial status. 

C. MAKE SPECIAL PROVISION FOR THE TRULY POOR.

The Bible makes special provision for the truly poor.

1. No Interest!

In ancient Israel, the truly poor weren’t required to pay interest (Exodus 22:25).  The idea is that they were borrowing what they needed to survive.  If something is given to the poor, then repayment should not be expected and if it is expected, it should not be with interest.

2. Less Offering!

In Ancient Israel, the poor were allowed to give less to the temple for the same ceremony (Leviticus 5:7, 11).

D. DON’T HELP THOSE WHO CAN HELP THEMSELVES.

2 Thessalonians 3:10b

if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

I don’t want to lump everyone into one category.  I don't know every situation, but surely if people can stand outside Walmart all day long in all kinds of weather to get handouts, they can stand inside Walmart and greet people to provide for themselves and bless others.

A friend of mine once offered a job to a man standing at Walmart and the man said he wasn’t interested.  He made more money simply standing there.  These people probably don’t need our help, let alone our money.

E.  HELP THOSE WHO CAN’T HELP THEMSELVES TO HELP THEMSELVES.

It’s interesting that while Jesus advocates giving money to the poor (Mark 10:21), I couldn’t find anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus actually did (Matthew 26:11).  Maybe he did and I missed it.  Perhaps it just wasn’t recorded (John 13:29).  Regardless, more often Jesus solved the problem that caused the poverty.  He healed the lame, the blind, and others.  He gave them what they needed to help themselves. 

In Peter’s epic response to a beggar, he said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”   Jesus and the Apostles provided a way for poor people to escape poverty. 

A question to consider:

Do you think we sometimes give money to the poor because we don’t know what else to do?

Or maybe we know what to do, but we don’t want to bother with the time and difficulty of doing what is needed so we throw money at the problem.  You see, giving money is beneficial.  It helps us feel like we are doing something without really doing anything.  It makes us look good in the eyes of those watching.  But it isn’t really beneficial because poverty isn’t one size fits all and what is needed is usually more than we are willing to invest.

Conclusion

Giving money might solve an immediate need and make us feel good about ourselves.  The Bible says: Honor the poor. Be impartial to the poor.  Make allowances for the poor.  Help poor people help themselves.  This provides for their needs and gives them dignity in the process.

Next time: Why should we help the poor and when should we not?